Mixing It Up: How to Design and Execute Interdisciplinary Research (without killing your collaborators in the process)

Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research New England
Fellow, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Associate Professor of the Media School, with affiliations in American Studies, Anthropology, and Gender Studies at Indiana University.

12:30p – 2:00p, Thursday, March 2nd
MCC 127













Humanists’ critically-oriented scholarship has long struggled with when and how to best weave together quantitative and qualitative approaches to lines of inquiry. Even when they could be used to complement each other, computational and critical methodological tools are often positioned as “at odds” with or epistemologically antithetical to each other. While methodologies always hinge on the research question at hand, there are few questions about the social, cultural, economic, or political implications of “the Internet” that can afford to ignore either the “big data” produced by social interactions online or the everyday engagements and social contexts that make those interactions socially meaningful. Rather than assume that quantitative measurement and qualitative, critical interpretation are epistemological chasms, what could it look like to bridge computational and qualitative divides?

This workshop draws on the presenter’s multi-year, multi-modal study of crowdsourcing—calls for work, distributed online, through an API—as a form of employment to examine strategies for investigating ethnographically rich, data-intensive problems. Research questions, like “How is the nature of work changing through new forms of digital disaggregation and distribution?” require not only sifting and sorting through massive amounts of data but also iterating between them and people’s everyday experiences of these information and computational systems. We examine ways to effectively and rigorously extract, interpret, and learn from very large datasets and put them in conversation with surveys, participant-observation, ethnographic interviews and fieldnotes, that require new approaches to collaborative research and theory-building.

Mary Gray is the author of In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth (Haworth Press, 1999) and Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (NYU Press, 2009). She received her PhD from the Department of Communication at University of California, San Diego.